Before Joe Girardi officially filled out his lineup card, there was uncertainty as to whether Derek Jeter would play in last night’s series finale against the Blue Jays. The Captain has been suffering what he calls a sore oblique, never an easy injury for a baseball player. It requires rest to heal. Unfortunately, rest does not fit Derek Jeter’s M.O. He returned to the lineup, though, and came through for the Yanks on more than one occasion.
His first act came in the bottom of the sixth. With Alex Rios on first and two men out, Jose Bautista worked a 2-2 count on CC Sabathia. The hefty lefty had unleashed a barrage of fastballs in the at bat, two hitting 94, one 96, and the latest one 97. On the fifth pitch he pulled the string, dropped to 85 mph. Bautista pulled it toward the hole, but there would be no Pasta Diving on this evening. Jeter laid out and snared the grounder, flipping to Cano to finish the inning.
Then, with the Yanks down 2-1 in the top of the seventh, Jeter was presented with one of those RISP situations in which the Yanks have generally failed this season. Brett Gardner had worked a four-pitch walk off Brian Tallet, his fifth of the night. Girardi called for a hit and run on a 2-1 count, and it couldn’t have gone any better. Frankie grounded one to short, which Marco Scutaro almost certainly would have turned into a double play if he weren’t out of position. He was, the ball squeaked through, and to the plate strolled Derek Jeter with two on and none out.
After taking a strike out the outside edge from new pitcher Jason Frasor, The Captain did what he does best. On a 94 mph fastball on the inside edge, Jeter did his inside-oot (as the Blue Jays broadcasters said) thing, lofting a ball over John McDonald’s head and into shallow right for a game-tying single. It was Jeterian in every sense of the term. Unfortunately, the 2-3-4 hitters couldn’t plate the RISP. The Yanks would have to save the comeback for another inning.
Leave it to Godzilla. Exactly one week after he hit a solo home run to tie the game against the Rays, he did the exact same thing. Except this time it put the Yanks on top. On a 2-2 count, Matsui took a Jesse Carlson slider, the first he’d thrown in the at bat, over the right-center field wall, giving the Yankees a 3-2 lead. It was Matsui’s first hit since the series opener in Baltimore last Friday, and it couldn’t have come at a better time.
CC Sabathia wasn’t quite as good as his last start, but eight innings, two runs is the mark of an ace, even if he didn’t get there in the most efficient fashion. Only one of his four walks came back to haunt him, but for a while that run loomed large, as it gave the Jays a 2-1 advantage. That inning, the bottom of the fifth, could have been a lot worse had Brett Gardner and Frankie Cervelli not hooked up to get Rod Barajas trying to score on a John McDonald single. We’ve seen Gardner try to uncork a throw or two this year, usually with disastrous results. On this one he took his time, throwing a strike in time to get Barajas and keep the Jays from extending the lead.
Sabathia took care of the rest, getting Marco Scutaro to ground out on the first pitch, ending the threat. True to form, CC powered through three more frames, laying his own bridge to Mo. Like Mo of old, he came in and mowed down the Jays, throwing six of his 11 pitches for strikes and retiring the Jays in order.
While the Yanks’ inability to capitalize on Tallet’s five walks was a bit frustrating, it’s tough to complain about this win. It was a close game wherein the Yankees scored a run in three separate innings. Whereas last week we talked about how the Yankees were finding ways to lose, today they found another way to win: by manufacturing a run or two and relying on some timely hitting. The win brought the Yanks back to .500, a mark they hopefully won’t see the rest of the season (though this isn’t the first time I’ve typed that).
The Yanks head back home tomorrow night for a four-game set against the Twinkies. It’s the disappointing Phil Hughes vs. the disappointing Francisco Liriano. I’m betting one of them won’t disappoint.